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Wednesday, November 24, 2004



THE WAR IN IRAQ




art
ASSOCIATED PRESS / POOL PHOTO
Brig. Gen. George Trautman, commanding general of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, left, shook hands with Lance Cpl. Jose Moracruz, 20, of Collin, Texas, after presenting Moracruz with a Purple Heart at Tripler Army Medical Center yesterday. Moracruz, part of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, based in Kaneohe, was injured by gunfire Nov. 13 in Iraq.




Wounded Marines
get medals at Tripler

Five lance corporals from
Kaneohe pin on the Purple
Heart for injuries in Iraq

The first group of wounded Hawaii-based Marines to return from Iraq were each pinned with a Purple Heart at Tripler Army Medical Center yesterday.

Despite the high honor, their thoughts remained with their fellow Marines who remain in Iraq.

"I wish I was back there with my brothers instead of here receiving it," said Lance Cpl. Bryan Bodrog, who was injured when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near him on Nov. 9.

He is paralyzed in his left leg, suffered nerve and spinal damage and injuries to his collarbone and thigh.

When asked about his fellow Marines, the 20-year-old San Jose, Calif., native choked with emotion, his eyes welling with tears: "I love 'em. ... They are the greatest brothers anyone could have. I really hope they're doing well."

Bodrog and four other Marines from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, kept a stoic face as they were bestowed one of the military's highest honor by Brig. Gen. George Trautman, commanding general of Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.

The other Purple Heart recipients were: Lance Cpl. Jeffrey B. Owens, 21, of Harlan, Ky., injured Oct. 17; Lance Cpl. Lance Pettis, 29, of Bremerton, Wash., wounded Oct. 30; Lance Cpl. Joaquin McCurty, 23, Mescalero, Texas, injured Nov. 10; and Lance Cpl. Jose Moracruz, 20, of Collin, Texas, wounded Nov. 13.

Moracruz, who is in a wheelchair, was the only one of the five who remains hospitalized.

Bodrog said he had rushed to the side of a gunner, who was alone when they began taking on heavy fire.

Bodrog recalled that he began shooting his M240G machine gun. Even after he was hit, Bodrog said he kept shooting from the middle of the street. But he lost consciousness and was pulled to safety by a corpsman and a medic.




art
ASSOCIATED PRESS / POOL PHOTO
Brig. Gen. George Trautman, commanding general of Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe, left, pinned a Purple Heart on Lance Cpl. Bryan Bodrog, 20, of San Jose, Calif., at Tripler Medical Center yesterday. Bodrog, on crutches, is paralyzed on his left side from a grenade while fighting in Iraq. To Bodrog's right was Lance Cpl. Lance Pettis, 29, and Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Owens, 21, both of whom also received Purple Hearts for recent war wounds.




McCurty said he was the only one of his seven-member squad hurt when a mortar round blew up next to him.

"It was fate, I guess," he said.

The blast injured his inner thigh, and his "testicles were crushed beyond repair," he said. "I can't have any more kids."

McCurty is engaged and his fiancee is due Jan. 2 with their first child, a girl.

As the sun rose on Nov. 10, insurgent snipers began shooting from the rooftop of a residential building, he said. McCurty said his squad did their best to suppress the enemy fire by shooting back. They finally blew up the building and were standing in front of it deciding who would go in first when the mortar exploded.

He said he isn't concerned about getting back to his loved ones, who are safe, but rather he is worried about his "brothers" still fighting in Iraq.

Among the first persons whom McCurty called was his Apache grandfather who helped raise him on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. It was the first time that he heard his grandfather cry, he said. His grandfather, a former Navy pilot in the Vietnam War, also received a Purple Heart.

"I never thought I'd be wearing one, too," he said.




art
ASSOCIATED PRESS / POOL PHOTO
Lance Cpl. Joaquin McCurty, 23, of Mescalero, Texas, was among the five members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment of Marine Corps Base Hawaii awarded Purple Hearts yesterday.




McCurty said he will remain in Hawaii for a while.

"Basically, my plan is now is to try to deal with some of the things that are kind of lingering in my mind before I go home," he said. "I don't want to go home to my family. I don't want them to worry about me as far as my mental health and all that other stuff.

"As far as being able to talk to somebody about what's going on out there, it helps, but at the same time it's still kind of hard to deal with some of that stuff," he said.

Chaplain Arthur Brown with the 3rd Marine Regiment said many of the men have difficulty sleeping because of intrusive dreams caused by trauma.

Brown said the "Warrior Transition" program helps returning Marines by giving them a chance to talk about their feelings and work through their problems.

"We've become more astute at dealing with some of the emotional issues associated with combat-related stress and we're acting in a timely manner," he said.

He said it's important to identify problems within the first 30 days, directing those needing help to the right resources, including mental health professionals. "In Vietnam, that wasn't done," he said.

1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment
www.mcbh.usmc.mil/3mar/1dbn/1-3%20INDEX.htm
Marine Corps Base Hawaii
www.mcbh.usmc.mil
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